Clearing the Air on Climate Change
Joe Biden, the permanent bureaucracy, the Democratic Party, their cheerleaders in the mainstream media, and the global elites – the types who each year flock to Davos for a meeting of the World Economic Forum – tell us that climate change is an existential threat to humanity. They further tell us that the “science is settled”, so we must enthusiastically enlist in the climate change fight right now. We must abandon the use of fossil fuels and switch to “green” renewable energy without further ado.
Before signing up, however, we would do well to ask what the fight is all about and whether it is worth it. On its face, the slogan, “fight climate change”, is moronic nonsense. The climate is always changing and always will whether humans walk the Earth or not. This catchy but vacuous slogan is shorthand for a question that everyone would find reasonable: Do human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) contribute to a warming of the Earth’s atmosphere that, left unchecked, would have catastrophic consequences for human life? The anthropogenic global warming (AGW) hypothesis asserts that they do. We must therefore pay any price, bear any burden to fix the problem before it is too late.
What is the AGW hypothesis? Guy K. Mitchell in his book, Global Warming: The Great Deception, “describes it as follows:
“… an increased concentration of CO2 molecules in the Earth’s atmosphere due to anthropogenic emissions of CO2 results in the added molecules ‘trapping’ (absorbing) more LWIR [long wave infrared radiation] from the Earth’s surface, which in turn causes more LWIR to be emitted, which gets absorbed by CO2 and water vapor. As a result, the temperature of the lower troposphere increases, and more water vapor is formed in the troposphere. Since water vapor is acknowledged to be the most potent greenhouse gas, the increased water vapor absorbs additional LWIR that is emitted by the Earth’s surface, thereby creating [a self-reinforcing feedback loop].”
Since 1850, when humans began to burn fossil fuels, the percentage of CO2 in the atmosphere has risen from 280 parts per million (ppm) to about 415 ppm. We are told that this increase of 1.35 CO2 molecules for every 10,000 molecules in the atmosphere is going to have a catastrophic impact, and all of it is from human activity.
The burden of scientific proof properly rests with the climate alarmists. It has never been shown that variations in a trace gas in the atmosphere affect global temperatures in any meaningful way, if at all. The case for why human CO2 emissions should be eliminated is based not on what has happened but on what unvalidated computer models project will happen.
No global data sets show statistically significant global warming. The only reliable global temperature record is the one from satellite-based measurements of the lower atmosphere (troposphere) taken from 1979 to 2020. It shows a trivial increase of about 0.13⁰ C per decade, well within the margin of measurement error. Reliable global temperature data are not available before 1979.
Why Models Can’t Be Trusted
The case for a man-caused global warming disaster rests heavily on projections from over a hundred global climate models (GCMs). The inputs for these models are surface-based temperature datasets. Their structure is based on the following assumptions, neither of which has been validated:
- The sensitivity of climate change to CO2 concentration is high.
- The change in CO2 concentration is due mainly to man activities.
The outputs from the models project a large temperature increase over this century. The projected rise in global temperature is then used as an all-purpose explanation for unprecedented upcoming disasters, e.g., rising sea levels, more severe, damaging weather events, habitat destruction, etc.
The entire case for climate alarmism is embedded in the models the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Vatican of climate orthodoxy, uses to convince the public that drastic action is necessary. If the models are wrong, the case for curbing CO2 emissions from human activity collapses.
Global climate models invariably “run hot”, i.e., over-predict the rise in temperature. No matter how many variables are added or how sophisticated the programming, the models will always fail to provide accurate projections. Major Inherent, unfixable defects include the following:
- The hypotheses according to which the models are constructed have not been proved;
- Data needed for variable inputs such as cloud cover, the albedo of the cloud cover, the heat capacity of the Earth’s land mass and oceans either don’t exist or are not accurate;
- The range of uncertainty of the calculations often exceeds the values obtained, thus making the results meaningless.
Even the IPCC implicitly believes that its models are useless. Its 2018 Assessment Report contains the following remarkable sentence: “The climate system is a coupled, non-linear chaotic system, and therefore the long-term prediction of future climate states is impossible”.
Why the AGW Hypothesis Is Wrong
There is a great deal we don’t know about climate change, but on one matter the science is indeed settled: the AGW hypothesis is wrong; it has been falsified.
The essence of the AGW hypothesis is that CO2 molecules “trap” long wave infrared radiation (energy from photons) and reradiate those photons back to the Earth’s surface. More CO2 molecules mean more trapped heat, which in turn causes an increase in water vapor, the most important absorber of LWIR by far. A strong, positive feedback loop thus is created; if not stopped, it will make the surface of the Earth too hot for human life.
Neither geology nor history supports the AGW hypothesis. It has been hotter when CO2 concentrations were lower and colder when CO2 concentrations were higher. Another inconvenient truth is that increases in atmospheric CO2 follow warming periods. Something that follows something else can’t cause it.
Why is the AGW hypothesis wrong? The answer lies in understanding the atmosphere’s heat transfer processes. Climate alarmists assume, wrongly, that the transfer of heat by radiation is the key driver of global warming (Radiation is a stream of massless photons from the Sun traveling at the speed of light. Their energy depends on their wavelength.) It turns out that most of the heat transfer from atmospheric CO2 is by means other than reradiation. The heat energy created when a CO2 molecule absorbs a photon is mainly transferred to other molecules via molecular collisions. The radiant energy of the photons thus is converted to thermal energy (the movement of atoms and molecules). Very little of the heat energy from these collisions is directed back to the Earth’s surface. Most is radiated in other directions or transferred to the upper atmosphere by convection (the rise of warmer, less dense, air through areas of cooler, more dense air). The amount of energy reradiated toward the Earth from radiant energy (the photon stream) absorbed by CO2 is trivial. The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere does not affect its temperature.
The True Drivers of Climate Change
CO2 accounts for a little over four one hundredths of one percent of the atmosphere. The IPCC tells us that of this amount 3% comes from human activity. Accordingly, if you believe that human generated CO2 drives climate change, you have to believe that two molecules out of every 100,000 override all the other drivers of climate change. That is nonsense.
The Sun accounts for 99.98% of the energy warming the Earth. Nature controls the climate. Climate change is the result of the complex interaction of solar, ocean, tectonic, orbital, lunar and galactic cycles. There are numerous books and thousands of scientific papers backing this commonsense assertion.
Why the Public Seldom Hears the Case Against the Climate Change Scare
The alleged threat from anthropogenic global warming is a perfect vehicle for elites to justify further concentration of power into their own hands. It is invisible, remote, frightening, complicated to understand, and can be used as an all-purpose explanation for just about any adverse weather event. A large part of the public is complicit. It makes many people feel good to join a crusade to save the planet from some vague threat without having to give anything up. Since almost all funding for climate research comes from governments, whose leaders have a strong incentive to promote climate alarmism, grants and tenure do not go to scientists who stray from the party line. Fortunately, however, there are enough brave, competent, stubborn scientists out there to assure that some good work does get done.
Scary Climate Claims that Aren’t So
It has become popular among politicians and the media to blame any adverse weather event on climate change. The general narrative is that the number and intensity of damaging weather events are growing. A look at the historical record from even a cursory Google search shows this is not so:
- Severe storms are not increasing.
- Heat waves are not becoming more common.
- Droughts are not becoming more common.
- Global warming is not harming coral reefs.
- The polar bears are doing fine.
- Global warming has nothing to do with forest fires. The intense forest fires in California, for example, are the result of poor forestry management practices.
- There has been no acceleration in sea level rise. The increase projected over the next century is about six inches.
It is important to remember that even if more harmful weather events were happening, human emissions of CO2 would not be the culprit. The climate is always changing for reasons having nothing to do with CO2. There will always be extreme changes locally somewhere. Inferring from some local extreme temperature-related event that catastrophic or even slightly adverse global climate change is occurring amounts to journalistic malpractice.
What is to be Done
The stakes in the climate change debate are too important for the public to accept the bleatings of clueless left-wing politicians that the science is settled. If the ostensible climate emergency is a non-problem, governments are wasting trillions of dollars. Even worse, the costs of wrong-headed, feel-good advocacy of measures to “stop climate change” are borne by the poorest of the Earth. In suppressing the use of fossil fuels, climate change warriors are condemning hundreds of millions of people to poverty.
I am convinced the climate change scare is a hoax. There are people of integrity and goodwill who disagree. Let the matter be settled by an open, fair competition of ideas. It is a shame that the mainstream media are more interested in promoting a particular – I believe false – narrative rather than seeking the scientific truth.